It’s a pity there are no pizza delivery services in fairy tales. Given how so many of these stories revolve around food or the lack or it (see The Ant And The Grasshopper, Hansel And Gretel, Jack And The Beanstalk, etc), most fairy-tale protagonists could solve their problems by just ordering a nice big pepperoni pizza at the right moment….

This is especially so in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The poor girl (who apparently doesn’t even have a proper name!) has to wander through a dark, wolf-infested forest by herself, to deliver a basket of food to her granny. Not only is she not given weapons, she’s also wearing a bright red hood that makes her extremely conspicuous to predators. I suspect her parents were deliberately trying to get her killed. How useful a pizza guy on a bike would have been.

Board game fans can experience Red’s thrilling journey into the woods for themselves with Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH), a fun little family game that combines both luck and strategy. Offering two modes of play, LRRH is simple yet engrossing, and can be enjoyed by young casual gamers and ravenously competitive players alike.

LRRH is the fifth game in Purple Brain’s Tales And Games series, which adapts popular children’s stories into board games for the whole family. Designed by Annick Lobet, with illustrations by Jeremie Fleury, every game in the series is charmingly designed to look like a tome of fairy tales, and contains a book with the story the game is based on.

The game has two modes: Mode 1 is completely cooperative, with players helping little Red to reach her grandmother’s house before the Wolf does. Tokens representing both Red and the Wolf are placed on one end of the game board, and four destination tokens (one showing Grandmother’s House and the others blank) are placed on the other.

Gameplay starts with the first player drawing a Path card, which have flowers drawn on them and a number at the top. The player takes Gathering tokens based on how many flowers are depicted on the Path card (from one to three).

Character cards: Little Thumb, Lumberjack and Peter.

He or she then has the option to stop Gathering: if he or she does, the Gathering tokens on the Path card are flipped over. Tokens which show flowers allow Red to move one step forward; tokens which show pebbles have no effect.

Alternatively, the player can choose to continue Gathering: if so, another Path card is drawn and placed next to the first card. Players then note the numbers on both cards; if the second card has a number lesser than the first card, that turn is over, and all Gathering tokens previously gained are lost. The Wolf Token then moves one step forward.

The game also contains special cards such as the Trap (left), which is used in Mode 2 to move the Wolf one space backwards, and the Red Riding Hood card (right) which is used in Mode 1 to increase a Players Gathering tokens.

On the other hand, if the number on the second card is equal to or greater than the number on the first card, the player can then take more Gathering tokens based on how many flowers are on the second card. The player can keep Gathering until he or she chooses to stop, or the number on the next Path card drawn is smaller than the previous one.

Players then take turns Gathering, and the goal is to let the Red token reach the Destination tile with Grandmother’s cottage before the Wolf. There are also special powerups and special cards that either hasten or slow your journey, and must be used wisely for success.

Part of me is disappointed at how tame the game’s premise is, considering the dark elements in the fairy tale. I mean, think about it: the story of Little Red Riding Hood is a vicious predator stalking an innocent girl through the woods, and it culminates in cross-dressing, people-eating and violence. It’s The Silence Of The Lambs for preschoolers!

These Animal cards show the Crow, Snake and Fox. They each have a special power.

str2_ttridinghood_terencetoh_7_COVERTaken on its own merits, however, LRRH was surprisingly fun. The fun comes from collecting as many Gathering tokens as possible in a single turn, and the challenge comes from knowing when to stop: one bad card can end a whole streak of progress.

Mode 2, which is slightly more complicated, is just as enjoyable. This mode is played similarly to Mode 1, except one player plays the Wolf and the others move little Red. This mode uses special cards that have two sides: a Character side and an Animal side. The game starts with the players moving Red receiving the cards on the Character side; each has a special ability. The Hunter, for example, forces the Wolf player to discard all cards with the number zero in his hand, while the Little Thumb card (arguably one of the most useful!) allows the Red token to be moved even when Gathering tokens show pebbles.

Every time a Character card is used, however, it is given to the Wolf player and turned over to the Animal side, which also has special powers. The Hunter card, for example, turns into The Goat, which eats two Gathering tokens in play, while the Lumberjack turns into The Snake, which moves the Red token one space backwards.

Once the Wolf player uses the Animal ability on a card, it is flipped back to the Character side, and then given back to the player he or she originally took it from. Using a power is therefore a double-edged sword, as it gives your opponent a special bonus too. Played wisely, these can make or break a game!

Gameplay wise, I have little to complain about in LRRH: I do, however, have some issue with it’s presentation. The rule book for this game, oddly, is rather vague; some rules, like those pertaining to certain cards, are not explained well enough, and I had to look up websites for further clarification. A shame, as previous games in the series had very clear instructions.

All in all, though, LRRH was a lot of fun, and is probably my second favourite of the Tales And Games series (after The Tortoise And The Hare).

Novel Games is a monthly column in which we review board games inspired by books, reading and storytelling.